What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a primary care specialty in western medicine. It is a science-based profession that is concerned with health promotion, injury prevention, functional restoration and maximising human potential. Physiotherapists are experts in movement and functional analysis, exercise prescription and application of therapeutic interventions.

Physiotherapy has the ability to impact on all four sections of the ICF (International Classification of Function, Disability and Health); (i)Body Functions, (ii)Body Structures, (iii) Activities and participation and in certain areas of application can identify (iv) Environmental barriers and ways in which they may be overcome.

Physiotherapists act both as first contact practitioners and as part of healthcare teams. Physiotherapy is performed only by physiotherapists who use movement analysis, manual therapy, exercise therapy, electrotherapy and various physical therapies which are evidence- based. Physiotherapy remediates impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, prognosis, and physical function. Physiotherapists can also conduct ergonomic and risk assessments.

Physiotherapy attempts to address the illnesses, or injuries that limit a person's abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. In chronic conditions they work to maintain function, manage pain and optimise quality of life, thus enabling people to stay in work while helping them to remain independent for as long as possible.

Physiotherapists also work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programmes for healthier and more active lifestyles, providing services to individuals and populations to develop maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout the lifespan.

Physiotherapists use an individual's history and physical examination to arrive at a diagnosis and establish a management plan and, when necessary, incorporate the results of imaging studies, laboratory and other tests. At the core of physiotherapy practice is recognition of the service user's autonomy and involvement in their own care, through education, awareness, empowerment and participation in their treatment.

The physiotherapist’s extensive knowledge of the body and its movement and potential is central to determining strategies for diagnosis and intervention. The practice settings will vary according to whether the physiotherapy is concerned with health promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention or rehabilitation.

In addition to clinical practice, other activities encompassed in the physical therapy profession include research, education, consultation, veterinary physiotherapy and occupational physiotherapy and administration. Physical therapy services may be provided as primary care treatment or alongside, or in conjunction with, other medical services.

  • Head of Discipline: Dr. Julie Broderick
  • Executive Officer: Ciara McCabe
  • General inquiries: e: physio@tcd.ie or t: +353 1 896 2110